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Illinois Supreme Court Issues Opinion Involving Public Duty Rule and Statutory Immunity for Government Entities in Personal Injury Cases

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Some personal injury accidents can be incredibly complex, especially when they involve government entities or first responders. The seasoned team of Chicago personal injury lawyers at Therman Law Offices have handled a wide variety of cases involving many different categories of defendants. We have the experience and knowledge it takes to ensure that you receive the settlement or judgment that you deserve.

A recent opinion from the Illinois Supreme Court illustrates how complex cases can become when they involve first responders. In the action, a wrongful death and survival action was filed on behalf of a deceased woman against several first responders, including various fire protection districts, ambulance crew, a 911 operator, and emergency medical dispatchers. The complaint alleged that the defendants acted negligently in rendering care to the decedent and that as a result of their negligence she lost her life.

According to the record, the decedent called 911 because she was unable to breathe and she was connected to a 911 operator. She provided her address and the 911 operator transferred her to a dispatch line. An emergency medical dispatch received the transferred call. Written procedures required the 911 operator to communicate the nature of the emergency matter to the dispatcher, but the 911 operator hung up as soon as the call was transferred. The medical dispatcher asked the decedent some questions but she did not respond, so he hung up the phone and called the number twice receiving a busy signal each time. He placed the call in line for emergency medical dispatch and listed the cause as unknown.

When first responders arrived at the home, they were unable to enter because the doors were locked. They left the scene after telling neighbors that they could not make a forced entry unless police were present. Several more calls were made to police and 911 in an attempt to get inside the home, but the decedent’s husband eventually arrived and opened the door. The decedent died from cardiac arrest due to pulmonary edema.

The defendants moved for summary judgment based on the public duty rule, which provides that a local government entity and its employees do not owe a duty to individual members of the public to provide police and fire protection services and other governmental services. The lower court granted their motions, finding that the defendants did not owe a special duty to the decedent and the appellate court affirmed.

The plaintiff appealed and the Illinois Supreme Court issued an opinion abolishing the public duty rule, stating that in cases where the legislature has not specified immunity for certain government activities, traditional tort rules of negligence apply. The court then reversed the grant of summary judgment and remanded the matter for further proceedings.

If your loved one was killed or you were injured in an accident involving a government actor, it is important to understand the special rules and procedures that may apply to your claim, as well as understanding whether the defendant is afforded statutory immunity. Our seasoned team of Chicago personal injury lawyers is standing by to help you evaluate your situation and whether you are entitled to compensation. Call us today at 773-545-8849 or contact us online.

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